Archive for category Biography

Hobson’s Choice (a Free Choice or No Choice at All?)

I recently read the argument that attorneys for Safelite Group Inc. (Safelite) made relating to Connecticut’s Public Act-13-67(c) (2) in a glassBYTEs.com article. They argued that,

“it puts appellants Safelite Group Inc. and Safelite Solutions to a Hobson’s choice….”

Hobson’s choice[1] refers to a businessman by the name of Thomas Hobson who ran a livery in Cambridge, England in the 1600’s. Hobson required that every rider asking to hire one of his horses to always take the horse nearest the door. If a patron didn’t want to use that particular horse no other horse could be used. A “take it or leave it” choice. As another source on the origins of the phrase states[2], “A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered.” I thought using “Hobson’s choice” in this particular instance an interesting one considering the origins of the term. More on that later.

This link to the summary of the act that was first introduced in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee of the Connecticut House and ultimately signed by the Governor of the State of Connecticut required that in the handling of any insurance auto glass claim in the State of Connecticut that:

“The act requires that a glass claims representative for an insurance company or its third-party claims administrator, in the initial contact with an insured about automotive glass repair services or glass products, tell the insured something substantially similar to: “You have the right to choose a licensed glass shop where the damage to your motor vehicle will be repaired. If you have a preference, please let us know. ” By law, appraisals and estimates for physical damage claims written on behalf of insurers must have a written notice telling the insured that he or she has the right to choose the shop where the damage will be repaired (CGS § 38a-354).”

Fairly straightforward.

A public radio program called “A Way with Words” talked about Hobson’s choice on one of the program segments. One of the hosts of the radio program, Martha Barnette tells us:

“The phrase Hobson’s choice goes all the way back to 17th-century England. For 50 years, Thomas Hobson ran a stable near Cambridge University. There he rented horses to students. Old Man Hobson was extremely protective of those animals. He rented them out according to a strict rotating system. The most recently ridden horses he kept at the rear of the stable. The more rested ones he kept up front. That meant that when students came to get a horse, Hobson gave them the first one in line—that is, the most rested. He’d let them rent that horse, or none at all.”

Perhaps you see where I was thinking that Hobson’s choice was an interesting phrase for the attorneys to use in their argument. First, Public Act-13-67(c) (2) is a duly enacted Connecticut law so their client really doesn’t get a choice in deciding whether they wish to follow it or not. As is their right, they can dispute the law which is obviously why the company is filing the appeals to the act which provides Connecticut consumers a choice in what company repairs or replaces their damaged auto glass. It’s just that at his stable Hobson didn’t want the same horse(s) being used each time by his patrons. Hobson wanted his patrons to use only the horse(s) that he wanted them to use. You can understand why Hobson wanted to rotate his horses so that each got equal use. Safelite wants Connecticut consumers to only use the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company that Safelite wants them to use. In this case it would appear that Safelite is Hobson.

By enacting Public Act-13-67(c) (2), the State of Connecticut took steps it deemed appropriate to protect consumer choice for residents of the state. There are any number of AGRR companies operating in the State of Connecticut for consumers to use when they sustain auto glass damage. So is it “A Matter of Self-Interest or Consumer Choice”? Isn’t it Safelite that is attempting to provide Connecticut consumers with a Hobson’s choice?

Just sayin’.

Take it or leave it

Another example of a Hobson’s choice would be from Henry Ford’s book titled My Life and Work and written in 1922 referencing options available for the Model T Ford.

Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

 

[1] Merriam-Webster.com meaning of Hobson’s choice

[2] Wikipedia.org description of Hobson’s choice

Other sources:

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/07302014SafeliteLettertoCourt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson’s_choice

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobson’s%20choice

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Interview with Dave Taylor and Cindy Rowe-Taylor

Two of the most respected people in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry are Dave Taylor and Cindy Rowe-Taylor who together built Cindy Rowe Auto Glass into the dominant AGRR company in much of Pennsylvania and Maryland. They retired to Florida a few years ago and spend much of their time cycling the world and enjoying their lives.

blogdavecindy

At Auto Glass Week™ 2013 that was held in Tampa, Florida last month Rich Campfield, president of the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA), presented Dave Taylor with a new industry award named in his honor. As a founding member of the NWRA, Dave was a force in helping to mold the organization. Cindy was in the audience during the opening ceremony where Dave was presented with the inaugural award.

While at the Auto Glass Week™ Conference I had the chance to talk with both Dave and Cindy and they agreed to an interview. 

DR      First, thanks to you Cindy and Dave for taking the time to talk with me today. Special congratulations to you Dave for receiving the NWRA award that was named in your honor. I can’t think of anyone more deserving to be recognized for the work you have done to bring windshield repairs to consumers.

My first question is how do you both like retirement versus the daily challenge of being in the AGRR business?

DT      Retirement is terrific. As many folks know, we are avid bicyclists and living in The Villages in Florida is a bicyclists dream come true. We would have retired sooner if we had known had much fun and satisfaction retirement life had to offer.

CR-T  Retirement has been an easy transition and so enjoyable.  It is not sitting on the couch eating bon-bons, but having a very busy schedule and having such fun being busy.

DR      It sounds like you’re both making the most out of retirement. Cindy, what year was it and what was it that drew you to the AGRR industry that caused you to open the first Cindy Rowe Auto Glass store?

CR-T  I was a registered nurse for 13 years and decided I wanted to be my own boss.  That was when I became aware of the windshield repair (WSR) possibility in my area. In 1979 I started out with my repair kit in the trunk of my Vega, seeing dealers and fleets, where the volume was.  No sales experience ever.  I loved it from the start. I am the WSR pioneer in the Harrisburg, PA, and surrounding areas.  Dave joined me in 1986, working mobile WSR for one year; it was after that year that we bought our first glass shop.  We kept on both technicians and learned about replacement.

DR      Dave, what was it that you found attractive (besides Cindy) to the industry?          

DT      Self employment is the short answer.  After a 25 year career in department store retailing I wanted to be independent of the corporate world. Joining Cindy’s business was the logical next step. Being able to work together added icing to the cake.

DR      What was it Dave that made you such an early and strong supporter of repairs versus replacements?

DT      Cindy founded the business as a windshield repair-only business before we had even met. Eventually we expanded from repair to full service.  Unfortunately for the consumer, and perhaps fortunately for us, 25 years ago most glass companies were focused on replacement. They probably felt it was best for their glass company.  Solid business management practices made repair profitable for us and a well executed repair program gave us a significant and profitable competitive advantage. Providing customers with their best solution to an auto glass problem, be it repair or replacement, was our primary business strategy.

DR      This question is for both of you. What can you tell the readers of this blog made the biggest difference in the growth and sustainability of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass over the years?

CR-T  Staying ahead of the industry with their many changes, starting with the early 90’s and on.  Customer service was not to be compromised and keeping valued employees.  Early on, Dave and I decided that advertising heavily and educating the public would do well.

DT      Consistently providing the best quality service to customers and aggressive brand building through media and public relations.

DR      I know that in my own career finding the right mix of people made all the difference in my finding success that I’ve enjoyed. At Cindy Rowe how were you both able to always ensure that you surrounded yourself with the best people, that you got the best from them and what advice can you offer those in business today as to that importance?

DT      Choose wisely, treat kindly.

CR-T  Fairly early on, we decided to hire people “green” and train them, offer good benefits, keep them abreast of the industry and give some autonomy.

DR      At Cindy Rowe you provided consumers in the Pennsylvania and Maryland markets you served with AGRR services, but you also offered paint-less dent repair. Would you suggest paint-less dent repair (PDR) as an additional product line that for those in business looking for additional revenue streams? And if not paint-less dent repair are there other products you think work well in today’s AGRR business?

DT      PDR is a profitable but technically challenging service. While it worked for us, it has proved difficult for many AGR companies to integrate into their businesses. I like what I saw during Auto Glass Week’s joint event with the window film industry.  We would have given window film a thorough evaluation.

DR      Something that some may not have known about you Cindy is that you are a registered nurse and that you’ve donated your time and expertise to those in need while in business at Cindy Rowe Auto Glass and still to this day being retired in Florida. Were you a registered nurse when you first started Cindy Rowe Auto Glass?

CR-T  Yes, for 13 years.  In 2002 I took the “Refresher Course” for RN’s and have been volunteering since in an area where uninsured patients are treated.  It is gratifying to be able to give back in some capacity.

DR      What traits or experiences in your background Cindy gave you the ability to find such success in business?

CR-T  I would guess perseverance, honesty, not afraid of working extra (lots of that for years), organization and time management skills.

DR      Here is a question for you both. Using radio and/or television advertising was a way that you got your name out into the marketplace and helped establish and differentiate Cindy Rowe Auto Glass. It is expensive to advertise on radio and television. When you look back at the genesis of Cindy Rowe through the day you departed the business, what was it that caused you to make that decision to spend money on that form of advertising?

DT      When we expanded from being a car dealer driven windshield repair only business to full service auto glass, we were the new kids on an already crowded block. Capturing the customer through the traditional referral routes would have taken a decade or more. So we went directly to the customer with Radio/TV and created an awareness and demand for our brand. When TPA’s began to capture significant market share, our brand building paid off handsomely. We were the only AGR company anyone in our markets had ever heard of and they asked for us. We never anticipated TPA’s when we began our brand building but brand building saved our skin when TPA’s took over most of the insurance business.

           Radio/TV and now internet are the effective media tools to build your brand with the general public. To influence “choice” at TPAs we wanted to be top-of-the-mind before the customer calls the TPA. Branding is a prerequisite to being “chosen”.  While media is expensive, aggressive purchasing strategies can help control the costs.

DR      Here’s a non-industry question. You mentioned that you are avid cyclers. Can you tell me what countries you’ve cycled and as a follow-up what you’ve learned about yourselves in your cycling adventures?

CR-T Cycling helps keep one in good physical condition and it really is a focus issue while on the bike – lots of issues to watch out; cannot daydream.

DT      United States, Canada, Bermuda, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Hungary, Lichtenstein, South Africa and Switzerland.

DR      One thing I’ve noticed is that you both smile quite a bit. Can you say you’re both happier now that you’ve left the industry? What is it you miss being in business?

DT      Happier? YES! What I miss about the business is the daily challenge to effectively manage the unending stream of issues. In retirement I can choose easier and less stressful challenges.

CR-T  I look at it as another chapter in life. I have always loved my work, but times change and I am now thoroughly enjoying retirement with Dave. One of the things I missed when we first left was seeing the people in the office. My people spoiled me and it did not go unnoticed by me!

DR      My thanks to you both for taking the time to answer my all of my questions.

For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to meet Dave and Cindy I can tell you from personal experience with them that they are good people. Truly fine people; who have effected and changed the lives of those that have come into contact with them over the years. Whether that interaction was in the business they operated together, the AGRR industry they both left their mark on or in their active community service over the years, both Cindy and Dave have given their time to those who sought them out or they felt needed their help.

The industry has been made better by their being a part of it and I hope that they continue to be active in helping to improve it in the future.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Interview with FDNY Chief Richard “Pitch” Picciotto

Each of us knows exactly where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001 and we will remember that day of infamy for as long as we live. 343 fire firefighters and paramedics, along with over 2,400 civilians were killed by terrorists on the day that brought down the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. While the of terror wrought was so shocking on 9/11, the day also brought out the best of what America is, means and stands for. A few of the antonyms of infamy are esteem, honor and respect. On that day and the days that have followed showed the world the greatness of America.

Richard_Picciotto_Photo

One of the featured speakers at Auto Glass Week 2013 was Richard “Pitch” Picciotto. Pitch is a former New York City Police Officer, who for 28 years served with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) as a fire marshal, an arson investigator, then as a lieutenant and as a captain before becoming a chief in 1992. When the North Tower of the World Trade Center was bombed by terrorists on February 26, 1993, Pitch was given responsibility for ensuring that the entire building was completely evacuated. He was on duty in New York the morning of 9/11 and he knew immediately that the attack was done by the hands of terrorists. His experience told him that the first tower hit on 9/11 was a terrorist attack and not a small plane hitting the building on a beautiful sunny day.

When Pitch arrived at the World Trade Center on 9/11 he was assigned responsibility for leading the evacuation of a number of floors of the North tower. The 110 story tower had 99 elevators which were rendered useless when the plane struck the building. Everyone who escaped from the North Tower that day came down one of three stairways, one each on opposite corners of the building and one in the middle of the building. On opposite sides of the building were stairways (Stairway A and C) which were 44” wide. The inside stairway (Stairway B) was 56” wide. You can imagine how difficult it was for fire fighters to go up those stairways to help evacuate the building when the stairways were already filled with panicked people trying to leave.

Although the North Tower was hit first, the South Tower was the first to collapse at 9:59 a.m. Inside the North Tower at the time of the collapse of the South Tower Pitch knew the tower he was in was going to also come down and he ordered the immediate evacuation of the building which meant every fire fighter dropped their equipment where they were standing when they heard the order and they started down the stairways.

Pitch was in between the 6th and 7th floor stairwell at 10:38 a.m. when the North Tower collapsed. He and 12 others in the stairway near him at the time of the collapse survived as the building fell in around them. Five hours later they were able to find their way out of the building and walked over the rubble of the Twin Towers to safety. Pitch tells the entire story of his experiences that day in a book he wrote titled “Last Man Down: A Firefighter’s Story of Survival and Escape from the World Trade Center”. Since 2004 Pitch has been a Battalion Commander responsible for Battalion 11 which covers the Upper West Side of New York.

I had the extreme honor to introduce Battalion Commander Richard “Pitch” Picciotto to the audience attending. Those listening to his talk that day heard him tell in vivid detail his experiences that day in the North Tower. He spoke of the heroism of the countless fire fighters who put their lives at risk to save the vast majority of those in the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Pitch also talked about five points that he feels are important for all to focus on in the post 9/11 world we live:

1.    Priorities in your life are what’s important

2.    Get focused on family and friends – don’t give up on relationships

3.    Be kinder and gentler

4.    How do you get through life? With the help of generous support of people

5.    Prayer

DR      First let me thank you for taking the time to talk Pitch.

RP      My pleasure.

DR      When you spoke at our recent conference I know that everyone was mesmerized by the story you told; one of leadership, perseverance and faith. What are the key traits that you feel are important to being a leader?

RP      First and foremost you have to be competent. You have to know what your job is and how to accomplish it. Unfortunately we have too many incompetent leaders. They may be nice people, but they are not competent in their field.

DR      In your experience do you believe that people are born with the traits required to be a leader or can someone learn to become a leader?

RP      I think it is a mixture of both. There are people born with traits to be a leader, but these traits also have to be developed. And you can develop many (probably not all) by studying and learning from other leaders.

DR      You first became a police officer for the City of New York and then made a career change to become a fire fighter in New York. What drew you to becoming a fire fighter?

RP      I just loved the camaraderie and also the tremendous amount of gratification of doing the job. There is no greater feeling in the world than knowing that you and your team saved a life.

DR      I understand that there is a term used by fire fighters – accountability – that has a different meaning to the one most are familiar. Can you explain the meaning of accountability as it relates to fire fighters?

RP      As a firefighter you’re accountable for your actions, as a leader you are not only accountable for your actions, but also for all actions taken by those who you have trained and lead.

DR      Like many in the room listening to your talk I was mesmerized by the story you told. The experience you recounted seemed more of serendipity. The takeaway I got from your talk was that all of us need to celebrate and embrace those around us in our lives. As harrowing the experience of 9/11 had to have been for you, you seemed to have emerged from the events of the day with an amazing outlook on life. How were you able to achieve that?

RP      I really don’t think I had a choice. It seems that if you dwell on the tragic events and repercussions of any tragedy it will consume you. I know myself and many of the firefighters did dwell and were consumed by the events of 911 to the point of depression, but for me I am now able to compartmentalize that part of my life (even though I reflect on the events of 911 every day) I try to enjoy life.

 DR     You ended your talk telling us five points that you feel are important for everyone to focus on. What was the genesis of those five points?

RP      You listed the points. I truly believe this is what helped me, and hope it can help others. I came to this realization after a long time reflecting on the events of 911 and life and what is necessary to be happy.

DR      Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions today Pitch. After you finished your talk you spent a great deal of time talking with those who attended one-on-one. I also saw you walking around the show floor and the hotel lobby. You were and are very approachable. I had a number of people tell me that you were someone that they’d enjoy having a beer with in their local bar. A man who would be comfortable anywhere, talking with anyone about anything. I have to concur with that as you and I talked several times and you were very kind and gracious to everyone you came in contact with. With what you went through on 9/11 you must have one huge heart.

Battalion Commander Richard “Pitch” Picciotto is an American hero. One of countless heroes, not seeking that badge that emerged from the events of 9/11. What makes people like Pitch so remarkable is that in his view he didn’t do anything more than his job on that day. Although he was only doing his job as Pitch says, he and other fire fighters saved the lives of over 27,000 people by getting them safely out of the Twin Towers on 9/11. I know that as a nation we remember the loss of lives that day, but in his eyes we should also celebrate life.

Just sayin’.

  

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Just Sayin’ Blog – A Lesson in Perseverance

(Autographed Pin Flag from Ernie Els last major win in 2002 at The Open Championship held in Scotland)

Perseverance is a key trait to achieving success in any undertaking. It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal one or one that you have in your business life. It doesn’t matter whether the undertaking is a big or small one. The ability to maintain an unrelenting focus on any goal that you are pursuing requires you to work through the difficulties and obstacles that confront you.

This past Sunday you saw that trait in the 2012 Champion Golfer of the Year – Ernie Els – by his winning The Open Championship that was played this past week at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in Lancanshire, England. The Open is the 3rd of the four majors (The Masters, The U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and The PGA Championship) which are held each year and where winning one of them defines a PGA Tour player’s career.

Sunday’s final round was a test for the 83 tour players who had made the cut after the end of the second round on Friday. Only Ernie and 8 other players were able to shoot under par on Sunday with Ernie carding a 2 under par. After 72 holes were played during The Open Championship this year only 18 golfers scored level par or better. Ernie was able to put pressure on Adam Scott who had started the final round in the lead at 11 under par and who led the tournament through 16 holes. Ernie made a crucial birdie putt on the final hole of his round that placed added pressure on Adam Scott who ended up bogeying the final 4 holes on Sunday and saw his goal of winning his first major championship slip away.

Ernie Els is a storied professional golfer who has certainly had great successes in his 22 year career, but at 42 years of age he hadn’t had a win on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour since 2010 (the Arnold Palmer Invitational) and earlier this year he was questioning whether he would ever be able to find a way to win again, let alone win a coveted major. With all the success Ernie had achieved in his career he seemed to have lost many of the considerable natural talents, along with ones he had developed over years of practice that together made him a successful PGA Tour Pro. Over the past several years he changed a number of people he surrounded himself with who he felt could help him find the right mix of ingredients that would allow him the opportunity to win again. As he focused on 2012 he had a number of heartbreaking near misses at winning tournaments which would have allowed him to gain an invitation to The 2012 Masters Tournament, a tournament which he had played for 19 consecutive years. Having suffered that professional setback to his career Ernie continued to work on his game, despite many opining that his career was over or certainly had to degrade to a level where he would be unable to again regain the level of play he had achieved.

Ernie’s ability to utilize all of his talents to emerge as The Open Champion this year is a testament to his perseverance. After winning he thanked his wife Leizl, along with his daughter Samantha and his son Ben for all the support they give him. Ernie also thanked a number of others who stood by him as he worked his way through the many issues that he faced in his journey to again win. And winning a major; a feat he felt he may have never achieve again, but did with hard work, dedication and perseverance.

If you operate a business in the retail or wholesale automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry; or if your business sells products to those in the industry, 2012 has probably been a year full of difficulties and obstacles requiring you to show perseverance. As I mentioned in a recent blog titled “Hopes for the New Year (Summer Update)”, the key drivers – the weather, the economy and miles driven – have not been trending positively this year and have been affecting many (6 out of every 7 of you in a recent survey question I asked) in the industry. Without those key drivers being a help to many in the industry, business owners and those who lead organizations are required to find solutions which will allow them to survive the negative environment we find ourselves. How you persevere and deal with the issues your business faces today will have a long-lasting effect on your business and for all the people who work for you. The various steps that you’re taking now will unquestionably determine whether your company will be able to take advantage of opportunities that will certainly exist in your market when the key drivers turn positive and business improves. What steps are you focusing on in your business to ensure that you’re in position to take advantage of your competition when the current environment begins to improve?

Ernie Els didn’t lose sight of what was most important for him to focus on during Sunday’s final round at The Open and that was his own game. He could only do his best, making the best decisions in ensuring that he played at the highest level he could which would allow him to post the lowest score possible and put him in a position to win. Ernie was able to accomplish that by changing his strategy on how he was going to play those final 9 holes. He knew he was lagging behind and that Adam Scott was leading by 4 strokes with just a few holes to play. Ernie decided that he would become aggressive in how he played those final holes. At age 42 he never lost hope that he could play with against the best golfers in the World and find a way to win. By utilizing skills he had accumulated over his lifetime; and with the help of those he surrounded himself and trusted most he once again found the path to success and to win and win a major.

It certainly isn’t easy to make the hard choices that business owners or business managers must make in order to be fully prepared for when business does improve, but those who just sit by and watch their market share dwindle as they hope for better days aren’t going to be in a position to take advantage of opportunities when they do appear. You have to be able to take an honest look at your business and assess the value proposition that your business brings to customers in your market, you have to evaluate the capabilities of your competitors and take all of the appropriate steps that you can to ensure that you are positioned correctly, which will allow you to take advantage when things do improve in your market.

Ask those people closest to you that you trust and respect for their opinions; solicit their honest views of the pros and cons of your abilities, of your company in the marketplace, ask them about their views of your fellow workers. Are you marketing your company properly? Are you just copying what your competitors are doing or are you trying new things to improve how your business operates? You can’t just sit back and hope for the key drivers to improve because they might not improve fast enough, you certainly can’t just sit back hoping that a competitor or two in your market will falter or that something else will somehow happen to improve your business prospects. You have to focus on what can you do to improve your business; without worrying what others are doing around you. What steps can you take to ensure that you’re ready when things turn positive for you in your market?

You will find that by your continually working hard to find ways to improve how you market or position your business to your customers, making sure that you have the right mix of talented people to work with you in your business and then ensuring that your business is operating as a “low cost” provider in your market that you will be prepared to find new success and to win in your marketplace when the key drivers begin to improve. Work through difficulties and obstacles that you face so that you can persevere.

Admittedly, sometimes even by working hard and being dedicated to your business things may not work out for you, but you can’t stop trying. Ernie Els never gave up on his goal. He believed that if he worked hard and continued to tweak his game; he’d find a way to beat his fellow competitors and win again.

So can you.

Just Sayin’……

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Interview with Marc Talbert – Guardian Auto Glass

Today I’m talking with Marc Talbert, Vice President and Managing Partner with Guardian Auto Glass, LLC.   Marc was formerly the president of PGW Auto Glass Wholesale, LLC until he left the auto glass manufacturer and wholesaler in late 2009. In the Fall of 2010 Marc, along with Jim Latch (a former executive with PGW Auto Glass and PPG Industries, Inc.); and Jerry Ray and Neil Smith (who passed away on June 17, 2011) who together were founders involved with Glass Pro and Elite Auto Glass formed a partnership titled LRST LLC. The four equal partners joined with Guardian Industries and LRST was given the management responsibilities of Guardian Auto Glass, LLC. This unique partnership was formed to grow the number of stores under the Guardian Auto Glass banner. The goal is for Guardian Auto Glass to provide automobile glass repair and replacement (AGRR) services using a local ownership/management model. The model looks very similar to the one that Wes Topping and his partners (including Jerry Ray and Neil Smith) used to rapidly grow Elite Auto Glass across the western United States before selling to Belron in 2005. Guardian Industries Corp. had owned the platform for years.  At this time Guardian Auto Glass operates over 90 stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

DR:  I know that you and your partners have been busy the past two years working on growing Guardian Auto Glass and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today Marc.

MT:  Thank you for the opportunity to participate.

 DR:  What year did you get your start in the AGRR industry and what was your first position in the industry?

MT:  My ARG (automotive replacement glass) experience began in 1994 as manager of PPG’s branch distribution centers in Dallas/Ft Worth.  I started my career with PPG in 1980.

 DR:  What were the positions and responsibilities you’ve had since you first started in the industry in 1994?

MT:  I relocated to Southern California in 1995 as manager of PPG’s western distribution locations, then to Pittsburgh in 2003 with responsibility for PPG Auto Glass, LLC.

 DR:  Which of those jobs did you find most interesting and why? And which was the worst one and why?

MT:  Honestly all were equally interesting because they presented increasing challenges and responsibilities.  Working in the field for the first 23 years of my career I anticipated the move to PPG’s corporate office would be the most intimidating, but I was fortunate to work with some very good people who made the transition much easier, and even enjoyable.

 DR:  You left PGW Auto Glass in 2009 as a President and your responsibilities at PGW included wholesale sales and distribution for the company. What made you jump from the wholesale side of the AGRR industry to retail?

MT:  I had the opportunity to partner with Jim Latch who I had worked with at PPG and two of our long-time customers Jerry Ray and Neil Smith.   Jerry and Neil brought significant and successful retail experience along with a proven business model, and together we saw an opportunity to partner with a company like Guardian to expand their retail business.   There remains quite a gap between the largest US retail provider and the next largest and one of our goals is to try and reduce this gap.

DR:  About a year after you entered the LRST partnership Neil Smith sadly passed away. Did his passing change the plans you’d made in your goals at Guardian Auto Glass?

MT:  Neil’s passing was certainly a shock to us and we miss his experience and counsel every day, not to mention his humor.  Our plans to grow Guardian Auto Glass will be more difficult to achieve without Neil but we have not altered our plans.

DR:  What are your key responsibilities at Guardian Auto Glass?

MT:  Jerry and I share the responsibilities for new market growth and acquisitions, and Jim has responsibility for managing the legacy Guardian locations and our administrative support center in Worthington, Ohio.  We all share responsibility for the management of Guardian Auto Glass.

DR:  Did you find the retail side of the AGRR industry a little harder than you had expected it to be?

MT:  I think you ultimately have similar issues with retail and distribution, or any business for that matter.  As you effectively pointed out in a recent blog you try to attract the best people and provide enough support for them to succeed without bogging them down with non-value added work.  That is the focus of our business and the core of our local ownership model, and what we believe differentiates Guardian Auto Glass in each of our markets.  Having local owners with a stake in our collective success changes many aspects and costs of traditional corporate management, and we believe is the key to growing profitably. 

The primary difference we’ve learned in retail is the need in some cases and with certain third-party administrators to retain customers who have chosen a Guardian Auto Glass location to complete work we’ve already sold through our local marketing and customer relationships.   This is a dynamic we did not face in distribution and one we are increasingly concerned with.

DR:  How many brick and mortar locations did Guardian Auto Glass have before you partnered with Guardian on this new venture versus the number that the company has today? How are you doing on achieving the strategic goals that were set for the first two years of the venture?

MT:  We currently pay rent at over 90 locations and I believe Guardian had 25-30 locations when we started.    The economy and lack of weather is certainly not generating a tailwind for us this year but we have continued to expand as anticipated and build a competitive infrastructure.

DR:  Many in the industry are waiting for Guardian Auto Glass to do something with the call center/third party administration (TPA) that you operate, especially with Jim Latch participation in the partnership. Does Guardian Auto Glass have any plans to become a bigger factor in the call center or TPA side of the industry?

MT:  Guardian’s network is not part of Guardian Auto Glass and is not operated by LRST.   As you point out Jim’s experience in this area provides a unique opportunity for us and we anticipate working with Guardian’s network to help expand both businesses. 

 DR:  What advice can you offer other retailers on how to successfully compete against Safelite®?

MT:  I don’t think we are in a position to provide advice to anyone, but we are concerned as I’m sure many ARG retailers are with maintaining access to our customers who have chosen to have their vehicle glass serviced by one of our Guardian Auto Glass locations.   We will continue to direct our efforts and investments in building our local customer relationships, and retaining access to those customers will be an area of increased focus for us going forward.

 DR:  Where do you see Guardian Auto Glass in 5 years? What will make you and your partners feel that it will be a success?

MT: Our mission is to grow profitably through our local ownership model and to continue our expansion, so we will need to see how we measure up at the end of our 5th year.   We remain excited about the opportunities in the ARG retail market and will continue to seek strategic partners and existing businesses in all markets to help us reach our goals. 

 DR:  How’s your golf game coming along? I know that in some circles you’re considered to be a tough guy to beat in a game.

MT:  Must be very small circles, however I would welcome a rematch with you and others free from the constraints of customer golf.

DR:  Perhaps. I look forward to the opportunity to a rematch. Some of my team members I’m going to change out, as I would guess you will too. Loser pays?

Thank you again for taking the time to talk with me Marc. I know that many in the industry are looking for someone, some company to step up and take on Safelite. Perhaps Guardian Auto Glass can be one that does. Good luck in achieving the goals that you have for Guardian Auto Glass.

Just sayin’….

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Interview with Eric Asbery, President/CEO www.Equalizer.com

Today I’m talking with Eric Asbery, President of   Equalizer Industries, Inc., an undisputed premier provider of innovative tools and products for the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the world. The company was founded by Eric’s father Ray Asbery in 1987. Ray unexpectedly passed away last September 27th at the age of 67.

Over the years Equalizer has received many awards, including several “Best of Show” awards. Company executives have also received a variety of industry awards including Eric’s being recognized in 2007 by the National Glass Association (NGA) with its prestigious NGA “10 Under 40” award; in 2005, Equalizer Vice President of Sales, Gilbert Gutierrez was awarded the prestigious Len Stolk Award” and Ray was honored by being awarded in 2004 the “Carl Joliff Award” by the Independent Glass Organization, in 1994 the NGA’s “Professional of the Year” and in 1992 Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award. In fact, Auto Glass Week 2012 will be dedicated to Ray’s legacy.

Equalizer is headquartered in Round Rock, Texas which is about 15 miles north of the Texas state capitol of Austin.

 

DR:  Thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions Eric. I’m a big fan of Equalizer and I only wished that the tools that your company has developed and brought to the market over the past 25 years would have been available when I first started as an auto glass installer 40 years ago.

Eric Asbery:  I hear that very often. As I was growing up, my Dad was transitioning from being an auto glass technician to a manager over several locations. I can remember him always talking about how there were no specific tools that technicians could use and that the taking glass out of automobiles was getting harder.

 

DR:  I know that your father got his start in the AGRR industry with U.S. Auto Glass. How did long did he work for Joe Kellman and what were his responsibilities while at U.S. Auto Glass?

Eric Asbery:  Actually, Dad got his start in AGRR as an installer in Louisville, Kentucky in the early 1960’s. He was hired in 1985 by Joe Kellman to manage the Austin, Texas market for U.S. Auto Glass. He worked there until late 1987.

 

DR:  What was the impetus for Ray to start the company and how was he able to envision the tools he developed over the years?

Eric Asbery:  Early in 1987, Dad and his technicians encountered the problematic 1986 Ford Taurus. It was a radical new design and the lower part of the windshield was attached by a thick, heavy bead of urethane that was nearly impossible to use conventional tools to remove it without breaking the windshield further. Many technicians were so frustrated by it that they resorted to just breaking it out with a hammer. One Saturday morning, after several of these tough jobs had come through his shop, Dad woke up with the design for the original Equalizer tool in his head. He went to work that Monday with the first Equalizer after building it over the weekend in our garage.

Dad was always inventing. He was a working man that really enjoyed working with his hands. He was always trying to improve upon any working situation he encountered. He listened to those around him, when they encountered a problem with their daily work; he always tried to make their job easier. Whether it was a tool or technique, it was very enjoyable for him to make work more productive for everyone.

 

DR:  Equalizer is known for its products all over the world. How did that happen and what are you planning to maintain and grow that presence, especially beyond North America?

Eric Asbery:  In the early days of Equalizer, we received a lot of attention on a worldwide scale. Every trade show we exhibited at or magazine we advertised in, people who did auto glass anywhere in the world were drawn to us because we were producing tools that hadn’t existed before. The timing was right and we knew it. We were fulfilling a need, right when it was needed the most. We simply focused on providing great customer service and the world came to us.

We now have over 100 different distributors worldwide; we are constantly traveling, researching current automotive glass installation trends and training the appropriate people necessary to satisfy the needs of technicians everywhere. As the global economy allows, we are always in search of new areas to market and support our products.

 

DR:  Equalizer has always been known as the dominant company for auto glass replacement tools. Do you plan to do the same for repair?

Eric Asbery:  The auto glass repair market is something we have always invested in. There are several great repair systems out there and we have carried several of them over the past several years. If our coverage of this market is consistent, then there is a chance we can become the dominant supplier. However, our primary goal is to ensure that any product we offer gives the auto glass technician the best opportunity to do their job effectively and easily.

 

DR:  Many people are always looking forward to the new Equalizer catalog. In the last several years, you also established a great presence on the internet. Do your customers still like to look through a paper catalog or is there a shift to see the products through electronic media?

Eric Asbery:  We have found that even though there is an ever-growing part of the industry that is becoming electronically inclined, most people still like to “flip through pages” of our catalog and that will be the direction we will continue to go until we sense that a major shift to electronic media is on the horizon. We think our catalog will continue to stay in printed form for quite some time but we always alternately develop and make available electronic versions of our promotional or marketing materials.

DR:  When did you join Equalizer and what areas of the company were you responsible? How did your responsibilities grow over the years?

Eric Asbery:  I have been at Equalizer since day one. My role at Equalizer, until 2005, had been directly related to developing Equalizer’s brand, image and marketing presence. In 2005, Dad (then 61) and I began work on my transitioning to the daily management of Equalizer. We both considered that transition complete in late 2010. Although Dad had never had any definitive plans for retirement, we all figured he’d work at Equalizer into his 80‘s. In retrospect, I am very relieved we had this foresight.

 

DR:  I know that many of the tools that Equalizer has developed over the years have unquestionably helped reduce countless injuries of auto glass technicians. The number of cuts, lacerations, back and neck strains requiring visits to hospital emergency rooms has had to have gone down by those using your tools and products. I know many companies supply auto glass technicians with Equalizer tools just for that reason. Hopefully this question doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, but do you hear from those who buy and use your tool thanking you for how Equalizer tools make it easier for them to do their jobs?  

Eric Asbery:  It is a very humbling experience to hear from someone who has benefited greatly from something you created for them. We receive feedback from hundreds of technicians each year thanking us for offering these products to them. My favorite memories from over the years have been when a technician has walked up to my Dad or any of us working at a trade show or open house and proceeded to tell a “before and after” story about our one of our tools and how it has greatly impacted their life in a positive way. It is truly the best part of my job.

 

DR:  When new car models come out each year they often have auto glass parts factory-installed in ways that many responsible for replacing those parts feel were designed by diabolical design engineers who seem to try to cause problems. How quickly do you start looking for replacement solutions for those parts that could cause difficulties?

Eric Asbery:  We have a network of “Equalizer Inventors” who are mostly auto glass technicians who have worked with us to design or create products over the years that we sell and/or produce for them. These technicians will encounter new design problems during their job on a daily basis and within a very short time they inform us of it. In many cases, they will offer a potential solution based on their experience and that’s what gets the ball rolling to create a product that will simplify the experience.

 

DR:  With the sudden great loss of your company’s leader, mentor, friend and your father, what plans do you have in the future to continue to grow the business and provide the AGRR industry with leading edge and innovative products in your leadership role?

Eric Asbery:  Since the beginning of our company, our focus has been to serve the needs of auto glass technicians everywhere. We developed relationships and processes to ensure we have been on the leading edge of technology for this industry. Nothing has changed or will change in this area. This is why Dad founded this company, this is our purpose.

We are always on the lookout for the next big thing, the next viable trend. Be it a tool, a process or just an idea or concept. We will travel, learn, adapt and teach. We will continue to gain from the experience of technicians in the smallest auto glass shop to the biggest national chain. We will always listen, respond and provide the best products available. This is what we do.

Thank you very much for spending the time to answer my questions Eric. You have a great company and I wish you continued great success.  You and your team have provided the AGRR industry with amazing products. I know that many join me in anticipation of the next great product that you develop to further improve the installation process as well as the safety of technicians around the world. Thank you for all you and your company do.

Just Sayin’

Equalizer Industries, Inc.

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Meaningful Quotes – Harbaugh, Hogan and Einstein

“Attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”Jack Harbaugh

“Attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind”, is what the father of two current National Football League (NFL) head coaches said to them when he dropped them off for school each morning as they were growing up. That father is Jack Harbaugh and he is the proud father of Jim Harbaugh – head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and John Harbaugh – head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Based on the careers of both Jim and John it is apparent that their father’s entreat to them each school day provided them with the drive to be successful.

In these difficult times that many in business face, Jack Harbaugh’s advice to his sons should resonate with everyone. Enthusiasm (or passion) for what it is you’ve chosen to do in life is critical, especially if you want to be successful. It may be difficult to maintain your enthusiasm when you look around at the competitive landscape; and if you’re going to survive and grow your company not only do you have to be enthusiastic, but everyone in your company needs to exhibit the same trait. Every organization, regardless of the size, needs a leader or leaders that can help guide it through the ups and downs that surely will take place over the life of a business and help instill the enthusiasm that Jack Harbaugh instilled in his sons. Without enthusiasm, you’re doomed.

 

“There are three ways to beat somebody. Out work ‘em. Out think ‘em. Then you intimidate them. Its part of the game.” Ben Hogan, professional golfer

In his era Ben Hogan was one of the great golfers and as a child and as an adult suffered adversity which he was able to overcome. At an early age he suffered the loss of his father due to suicide and to help his family earn money he took a job as a caddie. His golf career was put on hold for three years while he served during World War II and a few years after he returned to professional golf; he and his wife were involved in a near-fatal car accident in 1949 where he sustained multiple fractures to his pelvis, collar bone, ribs and an ankle. His doctors told him that he may never walk again and that his professional golfing career was over. Not only did he walk again, but he went on to win on the professional tour and win big. Ben won 63 professional golf tournaments during his career. I think he mastered the three ways to win.

At any level in team sports coaches try to put together a group of individuals that can work together cohesively toward the ultimate goal of winning. In business, leaders and managers work toward the same goal. In business putting together a diverse group of individuals who can accomplish the various goals that the company sets is what drives success. As Ben Hogan said, to be successful at what you do you need to work hard and come up with strategies that will enable you (and your team) to win. The third way Ben used to win was to intimidate his opponents through pressure. Pressure is a factor that exists in all sports.

What I like about Ben Hogan’s quote is that you can relate it to the business world. To me it embodies the idea that even if you’re business is smaller than those with whom you compete; you can still be successful by being good at your work and by “Being Smart”. Success can be seen by fellow competitors in the marketplace as a form of intimidation or more importantly respect. Regardless of the size of your business, most often when you “out work ‘em and out think ‘em” you’ll find success. Use all three ways to your advantage as Ben Hogan said, “Its part of the game.”

 

 

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

 

This quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, often is used to describe a business practice/strategy or two that a company never seems to change even though the business environment that the company operates is constantly changing or evolving. Over the years I’ve used the quote a number of times while trying to make a point in a business discussion with a supplier, T.P.A., employee and others. I’ve also used it while talking to one or more of my family members or friends. Perhaps you have too.

 

Often, when you’re just too close to something that you just can’t see the problem, you need someone close to you that you can trust who can tell you what they see that you’re doing in your business that’s not working. Something you’ve been doing “over and over again” while getting the same result? I’m going to guess that there are many. We tend to take a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to things we’ve done over the years that have historically worked. Einstein’s quote is very simple and straightforward. Are there things in your business that you could perhaps take another look and do a little differently to improve the performance of your business? If you make a change you may get the same result, but if you’re not willing to try; how will you ever know?

 

Just Sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Hopes for the New Year

I’m hoping that 2012 turns out to be a great year for those in the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry or if great is too high a bar to set at the very least better than 2011. In my opinion there are few key things that need to happen (and perhaps more than a few) for 2012 to be a great year. I’ve listed some of my hopes for 2012. Perhaps some are on your list as well.

  1.  Our industry is affected by three key business drivers:  weather, the economy and miles driven. Sadly we have no control or influence over any of these so I’m hoping for some luck for 2012.

Weather – I’m hoping to see “good” weather this year. I think you know what the definition of “good” means. For the most part 2011 was a “good” weather year.

In many markets, the AGRR industry and all those affected by it rises or falls depending upon the severity of the winter season which means snow. A severe winter brings increased breakage while a mild winter has the opposite effect. Annual demand obviously can vary considerably based on those weather fluctuations. I have many friends that compete in the snow-belt and at this time of the year they are looking at weather reports day-in and day-out to see when and where that next big snow will be. That snow, of course, has to come in the right amount and at the right time of day for maximum effect and that would be during rush hour. It would be great to see snow come in every other week so that after that big snow there would be sunny weather that follows allowing all those new repairs and replacements to be completed.  If there is no snow, owners/managers are forced to make tough decisions they’d prefer not to make relating to cutting expenses, so please let it snow. Snow brings out plows and salt trucks. If the area you live in still uses gravel or coal or sand, even better. 

Then there is ice. Ice can be even better than snow for the AGRR industry. Then there are cold snaps that can cause star breaks to run out when drivers go out and clean frost off windshields on cold mornings with scrapers or   even better – hot water. And when drivers turn on the defrosters to get rid of frost and warm air hits cold windshields. 

Hail is nice too. Of course not too small that won’t break the glass, but not too big either.  Just the right size will do. Rain isn’t ever really that good for our industry, but if it does rain please let it rain at night.

The Economy – My hope for 2012 is that in the United States and everywhere else in the world the economy becomes robust.  Since 2007 -2008 the economy in the United States obviously has not been robust.  During economic downturns many who experience auto glass breakage – the “do nothings” – delay repairs and/or replacements.  Everyone in the industry hopes that as the economy improves those “do nothings” will replace that broken auto glass.

A fully-employed workforce in the United States would be great. My hope for a robust economy includes the wish that everyone has a great job and that its a great paying one. All those fully employed people should have a car too — actually several cars would be even better. It would be great if all those cars would be fully insured with a zero dollar comprehensive insurance deductible. And, since these are my hopes for 2012, I hope that all those cars are fully insured with an insurance company that doesn’t use Safelite® Solutions as its auto claims administrator (I’m guessing most of you’d agree with me on that one). I hope everyone is going on vacations this year and preferably driving to all the beautiful places there are to visit and see in our great country.

A bad economy requires those competing in the AGRR industry to take an introspective look at their businesses.  That introspective look should include “SWOT” – your strengths and weaknesses versus the opportunities and threats you face. How you deal with SWOT generally determines how successful you’ll be.

Miles Driven – Miles driven are key to auto glass breakage and my hope is that for 2012 gasoline prices remain “low” which will equate to more miles driven by putting more people in their cars and on the road providing more opportunities for drivers to break auto glass.

The total monthly vehicle miles driven have been growing since the federal government started tracking the data. In September 2011 the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Commission released an in-depth Traffic Trend Report. If you follow this link to a graph on miles driven, after hitting a moving 12-month high of 3.039 billion, yes billion miles driven in the rolling 12-months ending in November 2007 the graph shows a down-tick in estimated vehicle miles driven that occurred in 2008 – 2009.  Thankfully the miles driven appear to have somewhat stabilized for now.

But the cost of gasoline is a major influencer relating to total miles driven. On December 18, 2011, a Chicago Sun Times (Chicago Sun Times article) article titled “At gas pump, 2011 was the year of the big squeeze” reported on the annual cost of gasoline for the average American family in 2011. The opening line of the article stated, “It’s been 30 years since gasoline took such a big bite out of the family budget.” The article goes on to report, “the typical American household will have spent $ 4,155 filling up this year, a record.  That is 8.4 percent of what the median family takes in, the highest share since 1981.”  This wasn’t good news for AGRR retailers in 2011. 

On January 6, 2012, a Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times article) article titled “Gasoline prices start the year at a high – and rising” reported on how gasoline prices are starting out this year. The article states, “but this also may be the year of the gas-pocalypse, analysts warn. That’s because gasoline prices are the highest ever for the start of the year, and they’re on the rise, supercharged by expensive oil and changes in refinery operations.” That’s certainly not good news for AGRR retailers looking for 2012 to be a better year than 2011.

The AGRR industry really needs to see lower gasoline prices that will cause a spike in miles driven for its business outlook to improve in 2012. Based on predictions made by Edward Morse, head of commodities research at Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., on December 22, 2011, on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance Midday” that doesn’t seem likely. If you follow this link Mr. Morse talks about factors affecting the crude oil market and the outlook for oil and gasoline prices. You’ll see that he holds out little hope for “low” gas prices in 2012.  Mr. Morse sees the floor for gasoline prices to be $ 4 by the end of May 2012. That’s certainly not good news for AGRR retailers in 2012.

My hope for 2012 is that gasoline prices are low and miles driven are high. Based on the realities of the marketplace and comments from experts you’d better cross your fingers and say a prayer for that one.

  1.  I’m hoping that in 2012 some entity – some organization or company in the AGRR industry steps up and becomes a leader for the industry. By the way, I’m certainly not suggesting that the “market leader” can assume that role.  I don’t think that’s possible. I am hoping that leadership is shown by someone who really cares about the AGRR industry and the issues that it faces, offering positive ideas for all to improve the valuable services that the industry provides to consumers.
  1. I hope to see fewer imports of auto glass manufactured overseas coming to the United States/North America and the imports that do come to our shores at least be from those companies that are major suppliers of Original Equipment Manufactured auto glass to car manufacturers and not those who primarily make after-market parts.
  1. I hope that every windshield that needs replacing in 2012 is replaced using the Auto Glass Safety Council’s auto glass replacement standard known as the AGRSS® Standard.  The standard is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards development organization.  The AGRSS® Standard (ANSI/AGRSS® 002-2002 Automotive Glass Replacement Standard) is North America’s only auto glass replacement standard and it addresses the proper procedures that must be used by auto glass technicians, along with other company employees who are also important to ensure the safe installation of auto glass.  No other company or organization maintains any standard remotely similar to AGRSS®.  I also hope that replacements are completed using a urethane that provides a 1 hour safe drive away time.  Your customers deserve nothing less.
  1. My final hope is that someone steps up and attempts to compete on a larger scale against the market leader. The industry really needs a strong competitor to Safelite®.  I really don’t care who that is, but come on already.  Somebody step up on the retail or third party administrator side and give them a go.

I hope everyone who competes in the AGRR industry the best of success and luck in 2012.

And finally I’m hoping for a great 2012 for myself.

Just sayin’……..

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ZIP Code based pricing

About a month ago on November 14, 2011, Nydia Han (link), a television news reporter for the local ABC Channel 6 Television affiliate WPVI in Philadelphia, reported on that station’s nightly news program about the auto glass replacement pricing by zip code strategy that, according to the station, Safelite® Auto Glass was utilizing in the local market.  It was certainly interesting and entertaining to watch the 4+ minute “Action News Investigation” segment that Ms. Han presented on the television stations ABC News Channel 6 “Special Report” (link).  During the segment she asked this question:

“Is it fair for a company to charge you more for its services based on where you live?” 

ABC Channel 6 visited a Safelite® store location in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, asking about replacing a windshield and reported that they were told – “So book it online” – by the store.  She did just that by getting on a computer and going to the Safelite® “Get a quote” web page. It was there that she found that she first had to put in a zip code as required by Safelite® in addition to other required fields detailing the make, model and year of the car; along with the piece of glass she wanted quoted.  Based on her report she then started to put in a number of different zip codes in the area serviced by Safelite®.  Ms. Han reported that what she found was that “for the SAME windshield replacement on the SAME car at the SAME Safelite® shop” she got a number of different prices, depending upon the zip code used for the quote.  She reported that the prices varied about $ 80 for the same windshield replacement on the same car and the question she asked was does that pricing strategy model seem fair to consumers?

Based on the television stations investigation and report, the director of Philadelphia’s Consumer Affairs Lance Haver believes that it is not.  As Mr. Haver said in the report:

“It’s just wrong.  There is no two ways about it.  This is just wrong.  It should be one price for everyone; it shouldn’t depend upon where you live and how much they can gouge out of you.”

So why did Safelite® use zip code pricing?  Their spokesperson Melina Metzger was quoted in a glassBYTEs® article¹ as offering the following in response to WPVI’s investigative report saying:

“Pricing strategies are confidential.  This is a case of an investigative journalist attempting to create scandal where there is none.

Like all businesses, Safelite uses a dynamic consumer pricing model that fluctuates based on many variables, such as what other competitors the customer might choose to repair or replace your vehicle glass, the availability of a technician in [an] area, and the availability of the right part in [an] area. At Safelite, we believe our consumer pricing model to be fair and offer value.”

Okay, Safelite® certainly has the right to use any pricing model it would like to achieve its goals as does any other company.  It is an interesting model when someone on one side of a street who has the same car as someone on the other side of the street can be charged different amounts for the same item quoted and installed by the same store.  But in Safelite’s® defense, doesn’t every company have the right to price its products and services anyway it wants?  Even if the same store location actually does the work and/or those two different people in two different zip codes who might live across the street are sent the same installer to do the work on the same year, make and model of car?

I looked at a number of other auto glass repair and replacement retailers operating in a variety of markets as Safelite® and each of the retailer web sites I visited asked for a variety of customer information along with details of the car and what glass was needed to be replaced.  The web sites I looked at asked for zip codes only to determine what store was closest to the customer.  None offered quotes online.  Each of those web sites also said that a customer service representative would be in touch via email or the telephone to follow up on the quote request from the customer.

Then I visited a number of other web based auto glass replacement quoting sites.  Each of the web sites I visited requested zip code information (In all fairness to them it appeared that none of the ones I looked at actually operated auto glass shops themselves and were aggregators selling customer replacement opportunities to others who would do the replacements).  Those sites require the zip code in order to know where the customer asking for a quote for auto glass replacement service is located. This is so that the web site can make contact with the appropriate retailer(s) who will actually be doing the work for their price quote.

I’m not sure what other businesses use zip codes in pricing models, but since I had some spare time I did a little unscientific survey of local Chicago area businesses where I live by walking around to a number of Walgreens Drug Store locations in different zip codes in the downtown Chicago area where I did a store-by-store price comparison on a variety of non auto glass products.  For my very unscientific survey I chose three different products

  1. a 7.8 ounce tube of Crest® Pro Health Fluoride Toothpaste Clean Mint ($ 4.99),
  2. a 6 ounce box of my personal favorite GOOD & PLENTY® Licorice Candy ($ 1.59),
  3. and a 100 count bottle of Genuine Bayer® Aspirin 325 mg Pain Reliever ($ 6.79).

Granted those retail items aren’t even remotely close to windshields, but I did say my survey was unscientific so I took some latitude.  Anyway, I found that with all of the Walgreen stores that I visited in my survey area, the prices were actually the same for each of the products surveyed.  I also checked their online web site where I found prices were the same. 

I then extended my survey to a few other online web sites.  I visited two very popular retail web sites called Amazon® and the iTunes® Store.  Neither asked for my zip code to determine pricing for the products I checked.

One last observation I made when visiting the Safelite® “Get a quote” web page.  I found it interesting and wondered why they asked the question:

“Are you thinking of filing an insurance claim?” 

If you respond – yes – you’re then asked to provide the name of your auto insurance company from a long alphabetized drop down listing.  Under that drop-down box there is a statement:

Asking your insurance provider about your policy coverage and deductible is not considered filing a claim in most cases. We can help you with information regarding your insurance coverage. (You can always change your mind before your appointment.)”.

It was easy getting a quote when I didn’t say that it was an insurance claim.  It wasn’t as easy when I answered that I was filing an insurance claim.  Do you think that the price would be the same if you said it was for insurance versus if it wasn’t for insurance?  I was just wondering and I’m…..

Just sayin’………

 

1  Articles reporting on Ms. Han’s ABC Television affiliate WPVI in Philadelphia’s report that appeared in glassBYTEs® Auto Glass and Insurance Industry News on November 15, 2011, and on November 16, 2011.

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Q & A with Lauren Fix – The Car Coach®

Lauren Fix is The Car Coach®   With her extensive and impressive background in the world of automotive safety, Lauren is seen and heard coast-to-coast on major TV shows, print, web and radio.  She is a winning professional race car driver and self-described alpha mom.  As an award winning “automotive and lifestyle expert” Lauren has an educational background in business, engineering and marketing; and is a renowned expert in the many aspects of the automotive industry.  I’m honored to have her answer some questions today.

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions.  After listening to a talk you gave recently it was very apparent to all in attendance that you are very passionate about educating consumers to help make them become more aware of the importance of keeping their cars in good mechanical condition, as well as making sure they know the ins and outs of how to deal with the automotive service industry when they need their cars repaired.  You also are interested in helping those that want to provide the highest level of service to car owners understand the importance of having more knowledgeable customers.  It seems like you were born for mission.

How and why did you become The Car Coach®?

Lauren Fix:   I always loved cars and helped my father in the garage when I was just a kid.  By the age of 10 I was able to help him turn wrenches and get the tools he asked for.  I was a “tomboy” for sure.  When I graduated high school my goal was to be an actress, but after long conversations with my father, he convinced me to look elsewhere. I went to school for business, communications and engineering classes.  I started racing cars at the age of 16 and being on national TV has been just as much of an adrenaline rush.  After restoring cars, racing, designed brake systems and writing articles for years about cars, a friend approached me to be a guest on Motorweek, a PBS show.  After the show he suggested that I be a dealer trainer as the money was great.   I was working for my father’s brake rebuilding company and I had done everything from tearing down old brakes to designing the first drum-to-disc-brake conversion kit.  I did ad design, marketing and placement then became a National Sales Manager.  You name it and I did it.

This opportunity was great for me as I had been working in the aftermarket side and this opened doors to the manufacturing side of autos.  I started in the parking lot and chased cones; this was crazy I had all this experience and a college degree.  So I contacted the training company and explained my background, they gave me a chance with a marketing session and thought I was a perfect fit.  I worked hard and in a few months and I was asked to be a lead trainer and was lucky enough to get that slot.  I trained dealers and dealer principles for many years until 9/11 when we were near NYC and I knew it was time to end this chapter.

In the meantime, I started writing for magazines, websites, regional and national TV appearances educating and informing people about cars and the industry.  In January of 1996, there was a blizzard in Chicago and many people were stranded and didn’t know what to do.  That led to a phone call from Oprah.  Her staff asked me to be a guest on the show and help viewers see how they should be prepared.  That led to being a guest 6 times and many reruns.  That led to multiple national TV appearance on news and morning shows.  Then hosting a show on DIY for 4 years and now a regular segment on Time Warner Cable News.

I also had a performance driving school to top it all off, called Driving Ambitions; it was held exclusively at Watkins Glen International Raceway.  We taught 100’s of drivers three weekends a year from 1981 to 2001.  It was a great way to learn about people and their cars.

In addition, my husband Paul, and I started a company in 1989 called Classic Tube and we manufacture automotive and industrial tubing products in short runs.  I no longer have a desk there but I am still Vice President.  Paul also operates Fix Motorsports where we restore collector cars and vintage race cars.

I’m an ASE certified technician, although I only work on my cars and I’m also a long-standing member of SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers).  As the spokesperson for the Car Care Council I’ve been honored to help educate consumers for over 10 years and help drivers “Be Car Care Aware”.

You were recently a featured speaker at Auto Glass Week2011 that was held in Memphis.  What was the message you took away from your time there?
Lauren Fix:  Auto Glass Week was a great idea to merge multiple groups for a common cause, meet budget demands and allow your industry networking and educational opportunities.  I learned quite a bit about the industry and look forward to educating consumers on the importance of auto glass and how it integrates with safety.  AGRSS® is critical to consumer’s safety and drivers really need to be informed about an area that is never discussed in public.

Where do you see the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry going?  Do you see any problems that need to be fixed?

Lauren Fix:  I believe that the auto glass industry can learn from the successes in the automotive aftermarket with educating consumers to be smarter customers.  Very little is ever mentioned and insurance companies control the outcome, and as tightly as the drug companies control doctors.  This needs to change for all drivers’ safety and consumer’s pocket books.

What do you think about the importance of AGRSS®, the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® Council’s mission relating to consumer safety?

Lauren Fix:  I think the mission makes sense and they are on the right track – getting more eyes to the website and a consumer education campaign will raise the awareness for all auto glass installers.  There are many ways to do this without spending millions on television commercial campaigns.

In your experience, what do drivers and consumers understand about auto glass?

Lauren Fix:  They never even think about it until there is a crack or chip.  Then it’s left in the hands of their insurance company and who they push them toward.  Consumers are not making the choices for themselves because they are sheltered from the fact and insurance companies are very aware of it so they handle it for them and control the industry for the most part.  Consumers need to make their own choices.

Do you think that drivers are aware that their windshield is an important safety device in their vehicle?
Lauren Fix:  I don’t think they have a clue.  They think seatbelts and airbags work together as a team, not realizing that the windshield is a critical component.

What is the most important safety tip that you personally wish that all drivers knew about?

Lauren Fix:  I wish that driver’s realized that they need to learn more than what is taught in driver’s education when they were 16.  Safety is more than driving skills and being aware, it’s about making their cars safer on the road for themselves, their families and other around them on the road.  Our culture of cars being just transportation is a fallacy because they are an integral part of our everyday lives.  Drivers should take the automobile and the industry more seriously; and with respect. If you look at how drivers in Europe see their vehicles and their training it could be a good starting point for the US and Canada to start including some of their programs here.

What does it mean to you to be selected by the Car Care Council Women’s Board (WB) and the Automotive Communication Council (ACC) 2011 winner of the Automotive Communication Award for “B to C Public Relations Efforts” and also the “B to C– TV Segment for the The Car Coach® Show”?

Lauren Fix:  This is a great honor, I take being The Car Coach® very seriously, but with some fun involved too.  To be recognized for my efforts just confirms the fact the we are doing all we can to help all drivers everywhere to be more informed, be safer on the road, maintain the value of their cars and learn to love them at the same time.

And finally, tell me about your mission and goals for the next year.

 Lauren Fix:  I just started working with The Weather Channel, and this will offer me the opportunity to reach more drivers.  This is all in my monthly newsletter, blog, twitter and RSS feeds.  My daughter, Shelby, and I are finishing my 4th book and her first; she is the Teen Car Coach™  helping teens and younger millennial drivers be informed as this generation looks at autos in such a different perspective.  My mission is constantly evolving as new opportunities arise from speaking to writing to television opportunities.  Also watch for me on QVC and Fox Business Channel. The Weather Channel has added automotive to their lifestyle programming.  I’m always listening and learning; so feel free to contact me at www.laurenfix.com.

Thank you again for taking the time to reach out to those of us in the AGRR industry with your message.  Those of us who are part of AGRSS® certainly appreciated your appearing at Auto Glass Week in Memphis last month. 

Lauren has a strong voice in the automotive industry customer service space.  Through her brand and her high visibility in the automotive industry, she can help bring needed attention to the importance of safe windshield installations to the driving public.  That’s what I believe.  What do you think?

Just sayin’……

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